On today’s program
- How do you change an organization? Some might say you need to be a rebel. We’ll talk to a former CIA official about how you are a successful rebel. Click here for the full recap.
- Ex-Federal — It’s like the match dot com site for former feds who are looking to go to the private sector. Click here for the full recap.
- And in the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder: running government like a business… and the Mars rover in the cloud.
Yesterday, we told you about what a VP nomination can for your social media buzz. But how are the presidential campaigns actually using social media?
If presidential campaigns are in part contests over which candidate masters changing communications technology, Barack Obama at this point holds a substantial lead over challenger Mitt Romney. That according to an analysis by Journalism.org. A new study of how the campaigns are using digital tools to talk directly with voters-bypassing the filter of traditional media-finds that the Obama campaign posted nearly four times as much content as the Romney campaign and was active on nearly twice as many platforms. Obama’s digital content also engendered more response from the public-twice the number of shares, views and comments of his posts. But the analysis also finds that neither campaign made much use of the social aspect of social media. Rarely did either candidate reply to, comment on, or “retweet” something from a citizen-or anyone else outside the campaign. On Twitter, 3% of the 404 Obama campaign tweets studied during the June period were retweets of citizen posts. Romney’s campaign produced just a single retweet during these two weeks-repeating something from his son Josh.
A real changing of the guard— from somebody who has been one of the real behind the scenes players in the government world. TechAmerica announced yesterday that Olga Grkavac, who has served as the lead for government affairs for the industry group for years, is stepping down. She will be replaced by Trey Hodgkin. Grkavac is quietly legendary. TechAmerica credited her with building the preeminent policy operation focused on doing business with federal, state and local governments. And they are pretty much right about that. As a reporter, Grkavac was always helpful and insightful. She always looked out for the industry she represented — and you knew that — but she also cared about helping the government accomplish its mission. She told me that she is going to take the rest of the year off. She said she just realized that I have not spent one day of life unemployed since I started working full time in 1971. And she acknowledged that she has been lucky — I would add that she is also very good.
- The General Services Administration has frozen per diem travel rates. For fiscal year 2014, the standard rate will stand at $77 a day for lodging and $46 a day for meals and incidental expenses. Federal Times says the higher rates will still apply for expensive cities like New York or Los Angeles. GSA says the freeze follows White House orders to cut travel spending 30 percent next year.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general is looking into allegations of wasteful spending at two conferences that cost the VA at least $5 million. Federal Times says attendees received tens of thousands of dollars worth of swag. The training conferences took place in Orlando, Florida in July and August of last year. The IG is also looking into whether federal employees improperly accepted gifts of spa treatments and concert tickets.
- For years the Department of Veterans Affairs has been dogged by complaints that the claims process is painfully slow. Now an inspector general report has found that VA’s are literally drowning in paperwork.NBC News reports, at the VA’s Winston-Salem Regional Office in North Carolina, an estimated 37,000 claims folders had been stored on top of file cabinets. Those piles had been stacked two feet high and two rows deep. The file cabinets were so close to each other that drawers could not be opened completely. More files had been stored in boxes on the floor and stacked along the wall. The VA is working with the Department of Defense to create an integrated electronic medical record that could be used between both agencies, but it will not launch until at least 2017.
- Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno’s says his top priority in 2013 will be updating tactical radios, mapping programs and smartphones known collectively as the Network. DoD Buzz reports, Odierno says the modernization of the Army Network is ahead of the Joint Light Tactical Vehicle, and the Ground Combat Vehicle. Army leaders have worked hard to amend an acquisition system that has struggled to keep up with technology.
- Mitre has been ranked the number Best Employer for Work-Life Balance by the jobs community site Glassdoor.com. Mitre manages Federally Funded Research and Development Centers. Certain Mitre locations maintain on-site fitness centers, locker rooms, outdoor recreation areas, health fairs, ergonomic evaluations, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and physical therapy. Glassdoor’s 2012 ranking of the top companies for work-life balance is based on a survey of 385,000 employees over the past 12 months. Only companies with more than 500 employees were considered.
- Customs and Border Protection is gearing up to test some new high tech border surveillance: military blimps. The agency hopes they’ll help find drug smugglers and people crossing the Mexico border illegally. The Wall Street Journal reports the military will test the $1 million blimps in the next few weeks. If all goes well, it could just give them to CBP free of charge. This is part of a bigger CBP attempt to revitalize its high-tech border security plan. Last year, Homeland Security pulled the plug on the troubled SBInet.
- And on GovLoop, is your office like a family? A McKinsey study found that family-controlled companies outperform their competitors and extracts some lessons for creating great teams. Do you agree? Does your organization feel and perform like a family?
A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
How often do you hear people talk about government being more like a business? Have you called your cable company lately? or phone company? or airline? Harvard Kennedy School professor Steve Kelman writes in Federal Computer Week about his experience with his bank… or his former bank…
Kelman writes that in his Kennedy School classes, he “often discuss what features of a government environment – in particular media and political scrutiny that put more emphasis on avoiding scandal than on achieving great success – tend to make government more rule-bound than private companies.”
But he also discusses that these problems can exist in the private sector as well. In executive education, managers frequently discuss ways to reduce the negative effect of rules, such as being aggressive about using exception authorities when the rule doesn’t fit. But Kelman says that his experience with his bank demonstrated something that would give the worst of government bureaucracy and inflexibility a run for its money.
And you know that I’m a Mars rover junkie.
President Obama this week called the NASA team that landed a rover on Mars, singling out the colorfully coiffed engineer now known to the world as “Mohawk Guy.” The President said, “It does sound like NASA has come a long way from the white shirt, black dark-rimmed glasses and the pocket protectors,” saying that ‘you guys are a little cooler than you used to be.’
NextGov notes that Amazon Web Services is providing cloud computing services for storing and transmitting images and data collected from the Mars Exploration Rover and Mars Science Laboratory missions for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Cloud tools allow the laboratory to construct Web infrastructure to broadcast and analyze data collected from the mission in only two to three weeks instead of months.